Can I use an iPad in the cockpit?

Here are some regulations and documents that cover electronic devices and iPads. If you are flying VFR Part 91 then start with AC91-78. If you fly IFR then the PED requirements of 91.21 and AC 91-21 must be taken into consideration. Operations under Part 91K/F, 135 and 121  need to review AC 120-76. This AC also defines the Classes and application types references by other ACs and FARs.

AC 91-78 Use of Class 1 or Class 2 Electronic Flight Bag (EFB)
This is the advisory circular that states it’s legal for FAA Part 91 GA piston aircraft pilots to use the iPad with current data as a paper chart replacement, VFR and IFR.
EFBs can be used in all phases of flight in lieu of paper when:

  • The EFB is the functional equivalent of the paper material
  • The EFB data is current and valid
  • The EFB app meets the AC 120-76B definition/limitations of a Type A (precomposed information) or Type B (interactive) application–see below

FAR 91.21, Portable electronic devices (PEDs)
This applies only to air carriers and IFR flights

  • Covers almost all electronic devices–not just EFBs. An iPad is a PED.
  • Pilots must determine that the PED won’t interfere with the navigation or communication systems. The determination must be made by the PIC or operator of the aircraft.
  • AC 91-21.1B, covers how PIC can self-certify that your airplane is not adversely affected by the iPad.

AC 120-76, Guidelines for the Certification, Airworthiness and Operational Use of Electronic Flight Bags (EFB)
·         This advisory circular does not apply to FAA Part 91 GA piston aircraft operations but could be considered good recommendations.

  •       3 types of applications
    • Type A are intended for use on the ground or in cruise, with precomposed information (PDF versions of print documents, for example). Specific uses might include operations manuals, SOPs, OpSpecs, weight and balance manuals, flight logs, SBs, VOR checks or even the FAR/AIM.
    • Type B must be accessible in the cockpit during flight, and is interactive in nature. Examples include power setting charts, runway calculations, charts, checklists, weather or a weight and balance spreadsheet. Popular apps like ForeFlight, WingX and Garmin Pilot are Type B applications.
    • Type C are FAA-approved applications.
  •       3 classes of EFBs

                 o   Class 1 EFBs are portable and not attached in any way to the airplane (kneeboard is still Class 1)–think iPad.
                     § Must be secured or stowed during critical phases of flight
                     § If it’s running a Type B application, it must be secured and viewable during critical phases of flight (defined as taxi, takeoff, landing and under 10,000 ft. other than cruise)

                       o     Class 2 EFBs are portable and non-certified, but attached or mounted to the airplane.
                       o   Class 3 EFBs are certified.
  •     Testing/compliance required (must all be documented and kept on board the aircraft, but is only required if replacing paper with an EFB – having paper charts as a backup would be an acceptable alternative to the testing/compliance requirements)
    • Interference testing
        • The AC provides a process (listed as Method 2) by which you can self-test the device
    • Lithium-ion battery
        • Requires safety and testing standards to be in the cockpit (UL, IEC). See below
        • “Operators should have documented maintenance procedures for their rechargeable lithium-type batteries…These procedures should address battery life, proper storage and handling, and safety.”
    • Decompression testing (pressurized aircraft)
    • Stowage and mounting of EFB
        • When the device is not secured or on a mounting device, consideration needs to be given on where to stow the device to prevent unwanted EFB movement when not in use
    • Develop policies for EFB use
        • How you will use the EFB in all phases of flight, and a documented plan of action in the event of EFB failure
  •      No geo-referencing - “Own-ship position is not authorized for display or used for any application, for navigation or otherwise, on a Class 1 or Class 2 EFB in flight.”

Lithium polymer battery – According to Apple the iPad features an advanced lithium polymer battery that provides up to ten hours of use*. In addition to providing hours of use, the iPad battery has been designed to meet international safety certification standards. All iPad batteries are tested, certified, and in compliance with the standards listed below. These standards meet the safety and testing criteria set forth in the FAA Advisory Circular AC 120-76B regarding the airworthiness and use of portable electronic flight bags.
·         United Nations (UN) Transport Regulations UN38.3: Covers battery safety during air transport.
·         Underwriters Laboratory (UL) 2054: Covers safety of lithium ion batteries in general use; UL 60950-1 covers the use of batteries in information technology equipment.


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New iPad Air Passes Jeppesen Decompression Testing

Apple’s new iPad Air, which is thinner and weighs 20 percent less than the previous-generation iPad, has passed rapid decompression testing conducted by Jeppesen. The company tested the iPad Air to 51,000 feet, similar to tests conducted on all previous iPad versions. “No anomalies were detected during testing of any of the iPad models,” according to Jeppesen, which makes the Mobile FliteDeck and FliteDeck VFR apps for the iPad. The new iPad Air is powered by Apple’s 64-bit A7 chip and a separate M7 motion coprocessor, the latter fed information by sensors such as the three-axis gyro and accelerometer. The M7 coprocessor could lead to new aviation app capabilities, although none has yet been announced. Jeppesen’s Mobile FliteDeck recently added geo-referenced approach charts, which display own-ship position on the chart. During AIN’s recent test of the new feature using an iPad mini with an external Dual XGPS150 GPS receiver, the own-ship display on Mobile FliteDeck was rock solid throughout the approach procedure. After landing, Mobile FliteDeck automatically displays the airport chart. Mobile FliteDeck is a free download from the App Store, but users will need a JeppView or Express JeppView subscription to download current charts.

"Pilots must determine that the PED won’t interfere with the navigation or communication systems. The determination must be made by the PIC or operator of the aircraft."

Any protocol on making this determination? Please reply to advise. Thx!

AC 92.21-1B, “Use of Portable Electronic Devices”, provides guidance on how the Pilot In Command operating under Part 91 rules can evaluate Portable Electronic Devices (PEDs) for non-interference and authorize them for use in flight.

I am exploring this subject as part of a report I need to do on possible careers I might choose. Thank you for your post it has valuable information on this topic.